The populist candidate scores big with one of the country’s biggest civilian employers.
image via (cc) flickr user michael vadon
Bernie Sanders this week picked up a major endorsement from the American Postal Workers Union. It’s a significant step for a presidential candidate whose unexpected campaign success has been propelled largely by his populist appeal. Sanders’ union boost comes on the heels of a number of high profile labor pick-ups from his chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. Over the last several months, Hillary Clinton has earned endorsements from the The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the American Federation of Teachers, which at the time called Clinton the “champion working families need in the White House.” But while the APWU is far from Sanders’ first union endorsement, it is perhaps his most appropriate.
As The Washington Post pointed out just days before the APWU nod, the Sanders’ career has long been focused on the Post Office as one of the lynch pins in his vision for America. In 2011, then-Senator Sanders introduced the Postal Service Protection Act, a bill aimed at modernizing the postal system in order to avert impending post office closures, and save tens of thousands of jobs. It’s legislation that speaks to Sanders’ faith in large scale public works, like that of America’s mail system. Speaking with The Post, economist and staffer with the National Association of Letter Carriers explains that “Sanders sees the post office as a culturally democratizing force in America” adding that “It fits right in with his democratic socialism. He stood up for the postal service when other people just assumed, ‘The Internet is killing the post office, let’s just dismantle it.’”
For Sanders, the postal system is emblematic of how the government can do good by its citizens, regardless of class, race, or location. It’s a sentiment he reportedly expressed while speaking with representatives of the APWU in the hours following the first Democratic primary debate, and echoed by campaign policy director Warren Gunnels, again in The Post, who says: “[The postal system is] the most visible symbol of government, every day. [Sanders] strongly supports postal jobs, but overall he wants to maintain and improve the quality of service that has improved the lives of the American people for more than 200 years.”
Which isn’t say Sanders is simply a starry-eyed idealist on the subject. His APWU speech was clearly intended to set the stage for an eventual endorsement, a fact which is even mentioned by the union in their release announcing their support for Sanders. In that same release union president Mark Dimondstein writes:
“We should judge candidates not by their political party, not by what they say, not by what we think they stand for, but by what they do. [Italics his] Applying that criteria, Sen. Bernie Sanders stands above all others as a true champion of postal workers and other workers throughout the country.”
While the 200,000-plus membership of the American Postal Workers Union represents Sanders’ biggest endorsement to date, it pales in comparison to the 1.9 million member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which threw its weight behind Hillary Clinton in October. All told, Clinton has picked up twelve national labor union endorsements to date.
With this week’s APWU announcement, Sanders brings his grand total to two.